Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the menace of drug abuse has reached an alarming proportion in the country and there is need for concerted effort by all Nigerians to tackle the problem.
Quoting the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates, Momora said the prevalence of drug usage in Nigeria stood at 14.4 per cent, which was estimated at 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 years.
The minister gave the health statistics at the weekend in Abuja during a media briefing on the dangers of non-medical use of Opioid pharmaceuticals and other substances of abuse. He said the figure was about three times more than the 2017 global prevalence of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.
According to the 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate, psychoactive drug use was responsible for more than 450,000 deaths yearly. WHO also stated that the drug-attributable disease burden accounted for about 1.5 per cent of the global burden of disease.
It noted that injection drug use (IDU) accounted for an estimated 30 per cent of new HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa and contributed significantly to the epidemics of hepatitis B and C in all regions of the world.
While lamenting the situation in the country, Mamora said drug trafficking and illicit drug use were not only a threat to security and governance, as well as the health of citizens.
The minister said, “The menace of drug abuse has reached an epidemic proportion and, thus, requires concerted efforts by all. Drug trafficking and use are not only a threat to security, governance and development of a nation but also to the health of its citizenry.
“Nigeria is not immune to the menace of drug trafficking and abuse. The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria at 14.4 per cent, corresponding to 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64.
“This is about three times more than the 2017 global prevalence of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.”
Mamora said though law enforcement and sanctions played a key role in reducing availability and accessibility of illicit drugs and their use, such measures should be balanced with adequate drug demand reduction strategies.
He suggested the adoption of a holistic and integrated approach, with equal attention being paid to drug supply and demand reduction, as the way forward.
Mamora said the measure was in line with the spirit of the three International Conventions on drug control, adding that the conventions were established to protect human health by preventing drug abuse and dependence and ensuring access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific purposes only.
He said Nigeria, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), under the European Union funded project, recently launched the 2021-2025 National Drug Control master plan (NDCMP) during a side-event at the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.
According to Mamora, the five-year strategic plan offers both a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing a range of drug related issues by all ministries, departments and agencies working on drug control.
However, the minister said for Nigeria to realise the full impact of this master plan, there should a review of Decree Number 48 of 1989, now Act of Parliament, which established the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), to recognise drug use and drug use disorders as a public health challenge in line with international best practices.
He also said there should be increased funding of drug prevention, treatment and care activities.
Momora added that over 80 per cent of drug control activities in the previous NDCMP (2015 -2019 extended to 2020) were supported by UNODC.
He stated, “For Nigeria to ensure sustainability and scaling up of evidence-based activities articulated in the new master Plan, there is a need for increased funding by national stakeholders, both from government and private organisations.
“There is a need for improved surveillance to reduce access to unlicensed prescription medicines, such as Tramadol and Codeine containing preparations. Infiltration of these substances into the country must be prevented.”
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja